Visual Encouragement: Child Artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic

August 23, 2022

By Kim Buergel

In fall 2021, children who visited the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic were encouraged to create uplifting artwork to support other children and adolescents who were nervous about receiving their COVID-19 vaccines. This artwork, one of 27 pieces donated to the Oregon Historical Society, reads in blue and red crayon “Be Safe/Get your shot/unless you wanna/turn into a zombie/it will be soar a/little but its worth/it/dayana/youll be/sick if/you dont/get your/shot.” OHS Museum, 2022-15.8.
 

As registrar for the Oregon Historical Society’s (OHS) museum collections, I gather details about donation offers from the public nearly every day. Donations are sometimes as large as a roller coaster car or a linotype machine, but a recent donation with a rather small footprint documents a significant milestone in U.S. history — the availability of COVID-19 vaccines for school-age children in 2021.

In April 2022, Phillip Mason-Joyner, Public Health Director for the Clackamas County Public Health Division, contacted me about a donation offer related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, he was offering a donation of art created by children who had been vaccinated at the COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic located at the Clackamas Town Center. 

As everyone reading this is all too familiar, the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Oregon on February 28, 2020. Governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency on March 8, 2020, and issued a statewide stay-at-home order on March 23, 2020. Our last day of in-person work at OHS was Friday, March 13, 2020. I remember so much of that odd day with vivid detail; not only did we find out we wouldn’t be returning to work the next week, but it snowed as well! It was a Friday the 13th to remember for sure. 

Cloth face mask made from upcycled Portland Timbers jerseys. OHS Museum, 2021-31.6.
Cloth face masks were widely used early in the COVID-19 pandemic. This mask was made from upcycled soccer jerseys and was donated to OHS by the Portland Timbers. OHS Museum, 2021-31.6.

For the next nine months or so, the entire world waited somewhat patiently and hopefully for a COVID-19 vaccination that might end our days of quarantine and isolation. On December 11, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for individuals sixteen years of age and older. On May 10, 2021, the FDA expanded the EUA for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents twelve through fifteen years of age; on October 29, 2021, the age for COVID-19 vaccinations dropped to children five years of age and older

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic. OHS Museum, 2022-15.6.
This piece of artwork features a yellow and red face with an inspiring message reminding folks that by getting vaccinated they are helping keep their community safe. OHS Museum, 2022-15.6.
 

Young children began receiving COVID-19 vaccination shots at the Clackamas Town Center Clinic in late fall 2021. Lori Kelly, a retired nurse, and others working at the clinic began encouraging children visiting the clinic for vaccinations to create messages of support for other children, adolescents, and adults who might be nervous to receive their vaccinations. The children used colorful crayons and paper to create drawings and messages of reassurance and hope that were hung on the walls of the clinic. It didn’t take long before there were over 200 pieces of artwork on display in a “gallery” at the clinic. 

Some of the artworks reference something called a “shotblocker”. “ShotBlocker®, made by Bionix, is a small piece of flexible yellow plastic shaped like a horseshoe with small plastic nubs covering one side. According to Bionix, “ShotBlocker®, a novel application of the Gate Theory of Pain Management, uses a number of blunt contact points to saturate the sensory signals around an injection site distracting the patients from the pain signals of the needle poke.” Pressing this tool lightly at the injection site pushes the nubs onto the skin, creating a nerve response that blocks the brain from feeling the actual injection. The ShotBlocker® has been an important tool throughout the administration of vaccines to children, and something I learned about for the first time throughout this donation process.

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic. OHS Museum, 2022-15.3.
This drawing illustrates the Bionix ShotBlocker®, which has been an important pain management tool throughout the administration of vaccines to children. OHS Museum, 2022-15.3.

I recall how very excited, grateful, and hopeful I was to receive my first COVID-19 vaccination, while also feeling a bit nervous due to my own needle-phobia. My personal experience with the COVID-19 vaccine made me particularly excited about this prospective donation, feeling that I could relate to those children who needed a boost of encouragement (and maybe a ShotBlocker®!) before receiving their vaccination.

Helen B Louise receives a donation of 27 pieces of artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic, June 30, 2022.
John Richards, Clackamas County Public Health Division Program Coordinator, met with museum director Helen B Louise at OHS on June 30, 2022, to donate 27 pieces of artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic.

I presented this donation offer to our museum acquisitions team in early May 2022. We all loved the drawings and agreed they were an important record to preserve for future researchers, so they might better understand the COVID-19 pandemic. After the meeting, I emailed John Richards, Clackamas County Public Health Division Program Coordinator, to accept a donation of a selection of twenty to forty pieces of art created by children at the clinic. On June 30, 2022, Richards met with museum director Helen B Louise in OHS’s Patricia Reser and William Westphal Pavilion to donate 27 pieces of artwork. 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, and future historians will look to places such as OHS to better understand this difficult period of history. While everyone has a distinct perspective and experience, children have a particularly unique vantage point on the pandemic, and one that is often overlooked or missing from collections records. Through these drawings, we can more holistically understand the COVID-19 pandemic as well as preserve these perspectives for future generations. I invite you to preview a small selection of these drawings in the slideshow below and browse all 27 pieces of artwork on OHS’s Museum Collection Portal (OHS Museum, 2022.15.1-27).

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic. OHS Museum, 2022-15.21.

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic.

OHS Museum, 2022-15.21.

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic. OHS Museum, 2022-15.10.

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic.

OHS Museum, 2022-15.10.

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic. OHS Museum, 2022-15.5.

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic.

OHS Museum, 2022-15.5.

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic. OHS Museum, 2022-15.11.

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic.

OHS Museum, 2022-15.11.

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic. OHS Museum, 2022-15.26.

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic.

OHS Museum, 2022-15.26.

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic. OHS Museum, 2022-15.19.

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic.

OHS Museum, 2022-15.19.

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic. OHS Museum, 2022-15.18.

Piece of child artwork from the Clackamas Town Center COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic.

OHS Museum, 2022-15.18.

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